Solar + Redflow batteries to slash costs, beat heat at outback cattle station

A zinc-bromine flow battery storage system from Australian company Redflow coupled with solar – and eventually a wind turbine – is expected to slash thousands of dollars a year from diesel costs for an off-grid cattle station in Western Australia.

Redflow said on Wednesday that its Perth-based installation partner, TIEC Electrical, had installed four of its ZCell batteries and a 15kVA Victron Quattro inverter to store energy from 9.5kW/peak solar array at the Yallalong Station in W.A.’s Murchison region.

The $200,000 system, which can store as much as 40 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy, will enable the cattle station to operate completely off-grid, while saving as much as $10,000 a year in diesel costs – the old diesel generator will now be used for backup, only.

The owners of the 348,000-hectare property are also planning on adding a 3kW/peak wind turbine to the off-grid set-up, to harness the winds of the hot and dry region, north-east of Geraldton.

But perhaps one of the biggest considerations of the cattle station’s owners in powering the station was the sweltering climate, with summer temperatures known to top 40°C, and sometime get as high as 48°C.

As well as requiring a battery chemistry able to withstand such conditions, Yallalong Station owner Lyndon Brown said a 24-hour power supply was essential to attract staff to man the remote outpost.

“If you want people to live out there in those isolated places, you do need 24-hour power to run all your fridges, air-conditioning and comforts of life that they expect,” he said.

“The nearest power grid is 150km away, so that’s not an option. We used to run our diesel generator for two or three hours a day. which worked, but you can’t afford to run it 24 hours a day.

“So, at the end of 2019, we put in a Redflow-based energy storage system and that has made all the difference.”

As well as being better suited than, say, lithium-ion batteries to provide sustained energy over long periods, the zinc-bromine flow batteries are known for their tolerance to the heat.

“Redflow batteries can run at 50 degrees without any problems whereas with lithium batteries, you have to keep them in an airconditioned unit,” said Brown.

“When you’re off grid, having to air condition the room consumes a lot of the electricity that you want to save.”

Redflow CEO Tim Harris said the Yallalong Station installation, along with a six-battery site at a pastoral property near Roma in central Queensland, highlighted the ability of Redflow batteries to provide off-grid energy storage for rural properties.

“These deployments demonstrate the ability of our zinc-bromine flow batteries to store and supply energy in the most demanding environments,” he said.

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